Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

9.0 Overall Score

Written by on October 4, 2010 in

The post-apocalyptic setting is a frequent backdrop to video games these days. This setting frequently requires a hero that fights to retain their humanity against a dehumanizing force of: a.) zombies, b.) mutants or c.) aliens. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West adds robots or Mechs to that list in an intriguing, adventurous, and entertaining way set hundreds of years into the future.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is developed by Ninja Theory and published by Namco Bandai. It should also be noted that Alex Garland, who wrote the screenplays for Sunshine and 28 Days Later is also the co-writer for Enslaved. Another film talent, Andy Serkis (the actor who voiced and played Golum in The Lord of the Rings series) also voices and motion-captures the main protagonist named Monkey. Both Alex and Andy’s talents are not wasted in the game as they both elevate (with the help of the Ninja Theory studio) a game that might have slipped through the cracks of this Fall & Holiday season to a game that will guarantee to entertain and delight.

In Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, humanity’s future has been overrun by Mechs who have made them complacent slaves who must wear a mask that can kill them when their robot overlords are not obeyed. Heading toward his fate, our hero Monkey is saved accidentally by a tech-savvy woman named Trip. After a pulse-pounding escape from a crashing slaver ship, Monkey finds himself a slave to Trip who commands him to take her home. Thus begins their odyssey. Enslaved is true to the meaning of the word odyssey for it is not only a journey home but an intellectual and spiritual journey as well for both of these characters. With Monkey enslaved, he shares a master-slave bond with Trip. It’s a relationship that grows and changes in a genuine way that is both touching and inspiring to see in a video game. The story, it should be noted, is very loosely based on the historic Chinese novel Journey to the West.

It should be said that Enslaved is not a perfect game. There are moments on the Xbox 360 version in which the game sputters at some tension-filled spots. Also at times some of the characters seemingly can blend through walls and their features look a little out of place. Another problem of the game is the camera which at crucial moments makes fighting several Mechs all at once that much harder with a camera that doesn’t want to cooperate. However this at no time manages to break the game or lessen its enjoyment. The game looks fantastic and the dystopian future settings offer chilling vistas (particularly of near destroyed familiar landmarks) that would give the History Channel’s television series, Life After People a run for their money.

Enslaved’s game mechanics are easy to pick up and start playing. The beginning of the game teaches players how to do things. Enslaved is a good hybrid of a puzzle adventure video game with a button-mashing fighting game. Often Monkey must find ways to reach places via climbing, jumping and dropping from hand holds, ladders, pipes, and beams. Only most of the time does this work seamlessly with an occasional camera angle making those highlighted destinations harder to spot. Meanwhile on the button mashing side of the controller, Monkey does have to fight a lot of different function Mechs again and again. The endless Mech fights can get a bit repetitive but at times Monkey can achieve a special take down that is always satisfying to watch. Each type of Mech has different weaknesses to be exploited. Thankfully through the game there are hundreds of glowing tech power-ups that the player can collect and then spend to build a better Monkey (with more health or better shielding) or to upgrade Monkey’s staff weapon or learn new fighting abilities.

Despite the dystopian future and urgent flight to Trip’s home, Enslaved is, at times, funny as well. The banter between Monkey and Trip quickly becomes something other than master and servant and there are funny diatribes in their exchange. Also later in the game a third character named Pigsy joins the odyssey who adds much of the humor both in dialogue and in situation. Overall it is the story of Enslaved that really makes it shine. This well-written and well-acted story makes the players want to learn more about this world and how it got to be the way it is. The characters are charming, endearing, and life-like. They fight for one another, they sling verbal jabs at one another, and they care for one another in a genuine way not often seen in many video games. During the game, Monkey comes across these masks (visible only to him) that shows hims some secrets that pay off in one of the most satisfying video game endings of all time that opens itself up to the enlightenment of not only the characters but also the players. This is a game, this is a story that simply must be experienced.

The great story, terrific acting, and fun game play will make Enslaved: Odyssey to the West a game worthy of multiple play sessions. It certainly is one of the most surprising and welcome games of 2010.

A copy of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

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Author: Chris Brown View all posts by

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